A R T S
written by Martin Stepek
For Ewunia, a prose poem to a baby
I found a fragment of a story on the website www.aforgottenodyssey.com
‘Many of the arrivals in Iran were children, orphans whose parents had died on the way. In Russia, starving Polish mothers had pushed their children onto passing trains heading towards Iran in hopes of saving them.
"I can never erase from memory the sight of an emaciated 14-year-old girl, standing apart from a newly arrived group, holding a tiny baby sister tightly in her arms, the smaller so thin that the skin of her arms and legs hung loosely, as on an old man. The older girl, Irenka Wozniak, whispered as I went up to her: 'I could manage to save only little Ewunia.' "
Calm your mind Ewunia, there is nothing to fear. When the warm sea breeze at the shores of Pahlevi blows through the transparent skin of your emaciated legs, and the heat of the sun brings balm to your weary cheeks, let it all go my love. My lovely dark-haired beauty, child of indeterminate age but surely no more than a baby girl, disguised certainly, yes only disguised as a victim of hell and starvation.
Calm your heart Irenka my child, you did so well. Don’t whisper your guilt my precious, lay down on this beach and be proud. Let the willowing love of the shocked Iranian women and men heal your broken life. So overburdened with the responsibility of trying to save your whole family. So much for a child to bear. Don’t whisper those words my angel, it is not fit to say, to hurt yourself that way, to say in shattered hush ‘I could manage to save only little Ewunia.’
No matter that we do not know how many brothers and sisters you tried to save but lost. You tried. No-one could have done more. Or how your parents died or were lost to you. No matter. Lie still. Let healing begin.
From the distance of sixty years I have come flying like a messenger from my father who survived, to rally you, to show you the wonder of you, to tell you that millions would bow down before you in worship at the unfathomable wonder of your deed. To make it, to make it to Iran not only alive, but with another alive, with Ewunia. To keep alive a baby, my God, through thousands of miles with no food or hope. Look, her tiny heart beats, see it thump beneath the slip of rags over her meagre frame. She beats life blood, and you stand, though you must lie down now, and yes, you may let go of your charge. You will not be separated from her ever. She will be here. Now close your eyes my God-like saviour of a baby through those months.
I could manage to save only little Ewunia.’ And thus you save the world from itself my little peerless heroine. Would that we were like you.
The stretcher-bearers are coming now. I shall tell them you both must stay as one, same hospital, beds beside each other. Now let us go.
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